This may be a bold claim, but embracing the sprint retrospective is the key to adopting the agile rhythm with your scrum team. Agile itself is about incrementally improving a product and making it work for those who use it. The retrospective meeting is “agile for agile” – it’s the system that drives continuous improvement.
During a retrospective meeting, you pull those intelligent, creative people who are busily creating mind-blowing software away from their daily activities and put them in a room to review and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the project at hand. It forces them to stop and think about how to make things even better.
Here are 6 ways to make sure the scrum team gets maximum value from sprint retrospectives and keeps them as a top priority.
1: Retrospect regularly
The sprint retrospective is usually the first ceremony to be deprioritized. The other ceremonies are required to happen for a project to move forward. But for the retro, it’s very easy to say “Let’s skip it, just this sprint.” Don’t skip it. Move it around. Make it shorter. Have it while making coffee if you must. But don’t cancel it. The longer you go between retrospectives, the more time there is for problems to creep in.
2: Think small
Improvements don’t have to be grand. In fact, try to avoid major changes. Change is hard. Picking small, simple changes that will enhance the agile process is key to making improvements that will stick. Even if you think drastic changes are needed, focus on slight adjustments that can snowball into more fundamental change.
3: Create feedback mechanisms
It’s easy to walk out of a sprint retrospective and forget the marvelous ideas that were just generated. Find a way to remind each other. Maybe you had a suggestion for the format of the daily stand up meeting – update your scrum notes with a reminder to follow that template. Add calendar reminders. Put sticky notes on your computer monitor. At your next retrospective, discuss if it worked.
4: Battle the agile process together
Treat the process as your enemy. Battle it as a team. Make it into something that you can use together. The retrospective isn’t about pointing out mistakes. The ceremony centers on the philosophy that if there is a problem, the concern should be with the process, not with any one person. Seek out those procedural problems together.
5: Trust your team
Providing honest feedback can be uncomfortable. But change can only happen when team members can openly admit that there is a problem. Don’t take feedback personally and trust that everyone else also wants the project to succeed.
Don’t underestimate the power of celebration. It’s just as critical to notice when the team is crushing it. Look for well-established habits, in addition to practices that were just started as a result of the previous retro. This makes it less likely that you’ll accidentally stop these fantastic practices. It is also an essential reminder of how awesome the team is.
If you’ve struggled to adopt the agile methodology in the past, or you feel like it just isn’t working for you right now, focus on getting the most out of your sprint retrospective. The unique solutions that come from your project team during a retrospective will make the system work for you.